Everywhere we turn these days we are constantly reminded about loyalty. Every business seems to have a rewards program or a loyalty program. Case in point, on a recent shopping trip to the mall I made transactions at four stores and bought lunch. Four out of the five stops asked me to sign up for their loyalty program including the pizza place! All of the locations were offering perks in exchange for my information. As sports teams evolve and start entering in to this very crowded “loyalty” area of the business, we must not lose sight of what makes our industry unique: We already have loyalty with our fans.
Loyalty and pride of our teams is what our customer base is built upon. The connection with our teams and the memories that come from it is the foundation of the wheel that drives us. Our great fans are with us through thick and thin. Realizing this and leveraging this is an important step as we develop our loyalty platforms.
With the LA Kings and LA Galaxy we have started to establish new loyalty programs, and we strive to drive these programs with two key principles.
#1 Be transparent and authentic with goals and message
There is no doubt that the goal of every loyalty program is to gather more information about customers. Learning their habits and info in order to allow us to reach our business goals is an important part of how we can have success. Our mission is to make sure we are open with our fans that our goal is to gather this information to help make their experience better. If we simply just tell them that they will be rewarded if they attend games or buy tickets, we may not see the results we are looking for in this busy “Loyalty” marketplace.
#2 Return the favor to the fans
Through thick and thin our fans are with us and they expect us to be loyal to them. So asking them for their “loyalty” is a slippery slope that can be insulting if framed in the wrong light.
We need to return the favor with great service and experiences. Our goal with our loyalty program is to build upon this fandom and become fans of our customers. We can’t forget where we come from and we need to celebrate and support our fans by giving them experiences that fit their needs. To some people this may just be free items or discounts, to others this may be experiences you can’t buy. Diversity in their choices is important while recognizing them for helping us and updating them on our progress of improving their experiences. As we establish and run our programs these are the key principles we are shooting for to break through the noise of the evolving and growing loyalty marketplace.
Juventus, la Vecchia Signora of Italian football, may be one of the most established brands in Italy, but she recently showed the sort of innovative approach to earned media that many newer, more agile brands could only sit back and admire. Using a multi-platform approach to social media, Juventus ran a competition to design a vast choreography within the stadium during the heated match with fellow soccer grandees Inter Milan.
Users uploaded their suggestions via a Facebook app for a placard-based design to be rehearsed and performed by the Juve faithful as the teams took to the pitch. The app received:
over 4000 registered users,
290,000 views, and
over 18,000 users voted for their favourite submission online using the #LoveJu hashtag.
This hashtag is itself a superbly crafted example of digital interactivity, a homophonic pun that is simple and appealing, and works on a platform where English is still the most used language.
During the game, the interactivity continued, as tweets using #LoveJu were displayed on the stadium’s massive screens. Many events now have this form of interactivity and it surely cannot be long before most stadiums in Europe follow suit, with the appropriate levels of screening, obviously.
“This was a great initiative, yet another example of Juventus’ modernity and innovative thinking. A number of clubs are embracing social media in Italy and doing a really good job at engaging with their support. The other clubs that spring to mind are Milan, Roma, Fiorentina and Parma with Inter and Napoli probably a touch behind though not by much. To return to the #LoveJu initiative, though it looked great and was a real success, I do think fan choreography is at its best when it’s spontaneous and designed by the supporters rather than the club.” ~ James Horncastle[/dropshadowbox]
Juventus’ initiative was over three months in the planning. They have had a digital department for two and a half years, which is longer than many clubs in Europe. I asked whether there were plans to follow up the choreography event and was told, perhaps a little cagily, that “it’s something that could perhaps be considered, but we view this particular event as more of a one-off”. Of course, with the app already produced and the hashtag well established, the nuts and bolts of such an initiative are in place, so any reactivation would be fairly straightforward. Indeed, one might ask why, given its undoubted success, it would not be something that the club would commit to. I suspect that it is an example of comms smoke and mirrors, rather than a genuine likelihood that it was a one-off.
Connecting the dots for sponsors
The Juventus spokesman I spoke with stated that “one of the aims of our social media initiatives is to give visibility to our sponsors.” Of course, this is achieved by repeated visual exposure to the shirt and its sponsor, Jeep. Beyond this, though, and the obvious positive brand association with a widely covered and ground breaking social media initiative, it is difficult to see any immediate, tangible benefit accrued by sponsors.
The predominant benefit for sponsors, anyway, is visual earned media and positive association for fans of the club with that brand. So, in that respect, something which is globally reported and talked about as a viral event achieves that aim. Nonetheless, I suspect that clubs and sponsors are working hard to maximize the earned media potential of social media engagement.
Building the digital fan base
The Juventus spokesman told me that social media is for the club is about:
building a closer relationship with our fans and football aficionados,
understanding their needs and opinions, and
gaining and reaching out to new international fans worldwide.
The digital age has spawned what I like to call the digital fan, someone who may live on the other side of the world, but who feels part of the supporting community and lives that support as part of a connected web of fans, using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to participate in the supporter experience.
Before you might have been able to buy a club shirt and watch the occasional game on television, but now clubs can generate and drive support and engagement with social media. Fans feel actively part of the community through chat rooms, forums, and other online discussion platforms. Games can be watched on a wide array of satellite channels or live streams online. A digital fan can be almost as engaged as a season ticket holder who sits in the stands every week, and may even be more knowledgeable and active in their online life.
The #LoveJu choreography initiative was clearly designed to tap into this digital fan base and did so, registering interest from all corners of the globe. It is important for the digital fan to feel connected and so the participation rates for effectively planned events are high. Since this captive market puts itself forward to be part of an event, what sponsor wouldn’t want a piece of that action?
Opportunities for global brand partnerships
More and more events of this nature will be coming from clubs with a global fan base. Global clubs and brands may partner to activate on each other’s websites and feed back into the clubs’ other communication channels to increase visibility and brand engagement. The potential is too big to ignore; where the Old Lady of Turin has led, others will surely follow.
The Digital Fan Engagement Conference to be held March 3-4, 2014, in Dallas (TX) looks promising.
Q1 Productions, a leading organizer of research-based, education program content, shared some content with us from some of the leading presenters. These interviews are posted in full on the Q1 productions blog and highlight the conference content.
Why should we go?
1. Best practices. The conference will highlight best practices in connecting with sports fans through advanced digital and social media strategies. The upshot is you’ll be more likely to develop content applicable and engaging for fans.
Speakers for the program represent leading experts among teams, universities and brands.
Tyler Tumminia, Senior Vice President of the Goldklang Group notes, “I am most looking forward to hearing and sharing the best social media practices, industry-wide. From Adidas to Nascar and everywhere in between, the Digital Sports Fan Engagement Conference will feature an array of experienced organization that leverage social media to create valuable content.” Tyler continues, “The conference is a tremendous resource for both fans and industry professionals to learn valuable practices on engaging fans via social media. Conferences where everyone is a creative sponge often lead to the best new ideas and adaptations.”
2. Interaction. All presentations will incorporate time for dialogue between the presenters and audience. So, the conference is, well, engaging. Brainstorming and knowledge sharing will allow for the opportunity to discuss and learn from shared experiences.
As Chris Yandle, Assistant Athletics Director, Communication at the University of Miami Athletics notes, “Social media is a telephone, not a megaphone. To be a successful brand, you can’t stand on your soapbox and just scream what you want to convey. You have to actively listen and communicate online. In order for your brand to be successful you have to provide customer service and give the digital sports fan content they can’t get anywhere else.”
We can learn from each other on what we’ve found works best in communicating with our fans.
3. Unique focus. With so much to discuss on trending topics, the conference will offer value and interest to teams and organizations throughout the sports industry. Focusing directly on fan engagement will allow for a unique and targeted discussion unlike any other conference program in the industry that we’re aware of. Here’s a look at just the first morning of the conference:
See you there
Who else plans to be there? Let me know (@kirkwakefield) and we’ll get together. For more information regarding the Q1 Digital Sports Fan Engagement conference, visit the Q1 website at www.q1productions.com/sportsfanengagement.
About Q1 Productions:
Q1 Productions designs and develops webinars, training courses, conference programs and forums aimed at specifically targeted audiences, including the life science and sports industries. Through a highly structured production process focused on research calls with end-users and key stakeholders in the industry, our team is able to understand the immediate business concerns of today’s leading executives. Whether focusing on new or pending legislative and health policy issues for the life science industry or upcoming marketing trends in the digital and mobile space for sports organizations, our programs provide solutions to the urgent educational and information needs of our attendees.
Brands highly prioritize social media engagement when partnering with sports properties. But who are these social media fans? Who are we reaching with the team’s social media?
Earlier this year we sampled registered users from a professional franchise (N = 469). The chart below displays the results of a cluster analysis grouping fans based on similar characteristics within the group, but significantly different between groups. These groups are not significantly different from each other in terms of ethnicity, household size or income.
Group 1: Passionately engaged
About a quarter (23%) of those studied frequently(66% of the team’s games) used social media (including texting, Facebook, Twitter) to send or receive information related to the team and games. This extremely passionate group (Passion Score = 95) is relatively young (M = 40) compared to other registered users of this team (M = 49). That the database skews older reflects typical season ticket holders, but may also indicate the need for teams to attract younger fans or at least get them to sign-up.
Looking at the chart, what else do you see? This group is more likely to follow on the team’s website, watch games on TV, and listen to games on the radio.
Since most of the sample are males (69.5%), the results show this group (64% male) is more likely to include females than the other three groups. They’re more likely to be single (61%) than the other groups. And, they’re relatively likely to have some form of season ticket plan (35%) and live within the metro area (e.g., within 20 miles).
Social Media Fan Groups
*Percentage of all games in a season
Social Media Usage*
Send/receive text messages about the game
Post messages/comments on social media (Facebook/Twitter/Websites) about the game.
Passion for the team (100 max)
Games reported attended*
Team Website: Visit the team website before, during, or after the game.*
Radio: Listen to games on the radio or internet.*
TV: Watch games on screen (TV, Internet, DVR).*
News: Follow the results in the newspaper or internet.*
Distance from venue (miles)
Males (Overall: 69.5% male)
Married (Overall: 52.5% married)
Fan base (% of fans surveyed)
Season plan member (partial or full)
Group 2: Distant Lovers
Although not a large segment (10%), this passionate (Passion Score = 90) fan group travels in from outside of town (average distance of 113 miles) a few times a season to attend a game or two. These somewhat older (M = 46) fans sometimes use social media (36%) to find or share information about the game, but they’re most likely to follow the team news through the newspaper or online (89%).
This group is less likely to tune in to TV (49%) or the radio (25%), which may be more a function of availability in their distant markets than interest. Consequently, the team’s website (68%) is a good way to reach this crowd, in addition to the relatively frequent social media use compared to the next two groups of fans.
Group 3: Passionately Disengaged
Although this group is as passionate as the second group (PS = 90) and attend about as many games as the first group, they rarely engage via social media (10% of games). This older group (M = 49) really don’t pay much attention to games on the radio (25%) even though they live in-market (~19 miles). Nor are they particularly avid viewers of TV broadcasts (51%). They do faithfully follow the team through the news, either print or online (85%).
This group is most likely to have some form of season ticket package (45%), particularly full-season.
Fans in this segment need to be energized as team partners to engage with the team. One suggestion is to partner with your local Apple store to offer fan workshops, perhaps specializing in the use of team apps. My 85 year old mother is on Facebook all the time, but would benefit from knowing what else to do with her iPad. The size and age of this segment suggest efforts like these could be worthwhile, because they also have higher discretionary income that would otherwise be spent on their grandchildren.
The Houston Astros target this older season ticket base by providing a headquarters for STHs, equipped with multiple iPads and other devices. And, as you can see from the cover photo, it’s sponsored.
Group 4: Dispassionately Disengaged
This relatively young (M = 40) are not particularly passionate fans (PS =63) and they show it by not following the team through virtually any media. They attend games (M = 9)a bit more than the out-of-towners in group two and live a little further out (M = 25 miles) than the two most frequently attending groups (1 and 3).
This group is the most likely to have mini-plans among the four groups, which suggests they get packages to occasionally go to the game–perhaps to entertain clients or go with friends–but they aren’t big fans.
One of the best ways to enhance fan passion is to provide direct contact between players and fans. Targeting this group with relevant events may be a way to move them into one of the other passionate groups, which in turn leads to more media usage and better fans for your partners.
Sports franchises may draw some of the less-discerning masses with dollar hot dog night and all-you-can-ingest seating sections, but luxury seats and suite buyers expect intimate personalization.
You can’t get intimate with an advertised special or promotion night. As with any other relationship in life, intimacy doesn’t lend itself to just anyone who makes an offer. As customers, we are only willing to commit ourselves to those who take the time to get to know us, understand what we like or prefer, and are interested in our past. Then, maybe, we can talk about having a future together.
What does it mean to delight customers?
Consumer psychologists have studied the concept of consumer delight–the consequence of surprise mixed with joy–for over two decades. Not all surprises are good, of course. Surprise mixed with anger results in outrage. Good to avoid those types of surprises.
More aggressive, proactive properties now go beyond trying to satisfy customers to interact on a very personalized basis. Why?
Selling suites and luxury seats caters to an expert clientele dissatisfied with what everyone else gets.
Fans with limited resources and experiences (novices in terms of sport & entertainment consumption) may be excited just to see a game from the upper deck. But expectations are much higher in premium sales situations and it takes much more to truly delight expert consumers.
Start with knowing your customer
Steve Massi, Director of Marketing and Client Strategy at International Micro Systems, explains, “Customer delight is driven by one primary insight: Know Your Customer. At IMS, we transform our customers’ businesses through unique utilization of real-time customer-centric data, resulting in more relevant customer engagement, customer experiences and organization-wide ROI.”
First, to drive real-time behavioral engagement and incremental revenue at the transactional “moment of truth,” and
Second, by making this customer-centric data accessible and actionable to develop more relevant offers, communication, and customer experiences.
Mass/group focus vs. Individual focus
Pre-planned, scripted elements of the event experience are aimed at masses or groups. No surprise there. And no delight.
Venues with commercial messages seen on TV surprise no one. Bored or annoyed would be more like it.
Groups brought on the court for special occasions are expected. The only possible delight is when the little kid in the dance squad performs in some unexpected way. Of course, those in the group benefit from belonging, connecting, and recognition (see Fan Intimacy matrix). Semi-scripted portions are more enjoyable.
We only begin to make real progress when we begin to reward and acknowledge individuals with meaningful, relevant methods illustrating our understanding of the customer as an individual.
Brandon Steffek, Director of Sales at Full House, helps properties delight customers by incorporating variable information into the designs and content of email and direct mail collateral. Through analyzing market and customer data, Full House can use variable information such as surnames, demographics, company names, industry specific images and content to appeal directly to the behaviors most applicable to customers. Brandon emphasizes, “This approach creates a more personalized and meaningful touch to our email and direct mail efforts both internally and for our customers.”
The Oakland Raiders, for instance, can personalize emails and mailings to individuals who’ve leased a suite in the past or are identified as potential suite customers.
First thing to do
The first thing you must do to delight premium customers is simply to understand that’s the goal. If you think it’s just to sell them space in a seat or suite, provide an entertaining experience, and good service, they can get that at a lot of places. If you continue to do only what expected, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting.
The second thing you must do is take advantage of the technologies available to us today to market, sell, and service on an individual personalized basis. We’d love to hear your ideas and examples of ways you’ve found to truly delight premium buyers in your markets. Leave a comment or tweet to us @BaylorS3 and @KirkWakefield.
“Put your voice where the ears are.” At least that’s the way Ohio University classmate and fellow S3 writer Ken Troupe puts it.
Remove the name given to the internet-based communication platforms, social media, and look at what they actually are: FREE marketing outlets with the capability to reach thousands of fans, create exponentially more impressions, and push a desired message. Put your voice where the ears or eyes are.
How does social media fit into the bigger marketing picture? Think of the hub and spokes metaphor: With each additional spoke you create (traditional media, PR, community efforts, etc.), the stronger the wheel and the better it runs. Social media should serve as a spoke in your marketing strategy and an extension of traditional marketing strategies.
How to invest social media efforts
With so many platforms, how do you decide where to invest?
When you take an objective look at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Pheed, and all the other social media platforms, Kevin Johnson, Director of Mandalay Creative Services at Mandalay Baseball Properties reinforces the realities of social media, “Content has been and always will be king. Fans love to see photos, videos, and participate in polls.”
Start with a presence on Facebook. Facebook may be at its peak before it becomes MySpace, but you need to be there now.
Comparing the platforms, there is very little fundamental difference among the social media outlets. Understand that your content can be adjusted slightly to optimize it for the different platforms. Johnson emphasizes, “focus on the same tone, style, voice, and messaging throughout.”
A best practice among professional sports organizations on Instagram is the Seattle Mariners. They add production value to their posts by creating a game summary graphic which needs no explanation. The same image can be posted to Facebook with a headline, Tweeted with 140 character or less caption, and posted on their (hypothetical) “Games Played” board on Pinterest.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are always on the forefront of social media innovation. During the season and this year’s playoff run, the team posts 6-second videos on Vine of fans before the games, players coming on the ice, and other exciting moments easily captured with anyone with a smartphone. Click here to see a Penguins Vine in action. The Penguins are also one of the first to be on WhoSay, which is geared more to fans following individual celebrities and players like RGIII (see below).
Where am I supposed to get the additional resources?
The Chicago White Sox installed a social media lounge for fans to charge devices, connect with other users, create and promote White Sox content, and ultimately serve as brand ambassadors. White Sox Vice President of Sales and Marketing was quoted on CSN Chicago saying, “It doesn’t have to be marketing and sales, but it’s the best way to communicate with your fans and give them accurate info. It’s a great way to communicate what’s going on with the team and with the ballpark.” It also creates impressions to organically increase brand affinity. The increased and continuous relevance brings fans to your building and have them wearing your gear.[/dropshadowbox]The magic of social media is the vast community of viral ideas.
Look internally. There are people in your organization that are paid for their great ideas. And there are people that don’t need to be paid to produce great ideas.
Look externally. Allow fans to produce content and create another level of connection with your fan base. Check out what the White Sox did with their social media lounge!
Cutting through the clutter
One of the best recent examples comes from BNP Paribas,corporate partner of the French Open, and their activation with homegrown tennis superstar, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga. A social-media controlled tennis ball machine launched balls cross-court to help Tsonga train for the upcoming French Open. Fans have a unique connection with their tennis hero and feel a part of his team in helping him practice tennis.
Social media is a space intended for creativity, for innovation, and for busting down walls. It dares you to take chances, attract attention, and create viral buzz. In an incredibly competitive industry, sports, accept the challenge to beat your competitors. Create social media campaigns that leave your fans cheering and your opponents in shock and awe!
My favorite is AT&T Park. You don’t have to love baseball to love going there. And that really is the business issue: How do you build or maintain a park that attracts people who don’t really care about baseball? The Cubs aren’t spending $500 million in renovations because baseball fans don’t love Wrigley. They’re concerned about the long-term attractiveness of the park and providing all fans, baseball lovers or not, with a good experience.
What makes a good park?
In the past two weeks I visited Dodgers Stadium, Petco Park (Padres), and Citizens Bank Park (Phillies). On this three-park trip I focused more on the team stores in addition to the sportscape. Let’s take a quick look at the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let’s start with the good.
San Diego’s Petco Parkis also one of my favorite parks. The location is perfect, adjacent to the Gaslight District for fine eating and close to major thoroughfares and public transportation for easy access. Walk two blocks and you’re good for a stroll along the bay. I’ve been here many times, so the pictures highlight a few things you might not notice if you’ve only been here once or twice.
Many team stores are designed as an after-thought. Not so at Petco Park. The Padres team store opens to an exterior retail street. The merchandise assortment, displays, lighting, and layout are as nice as any comparable upscale retail store. (Place cursor over pictures to pause & read comments.)
Philadelphia’s Citizen’s Bank Park is located in the same area as all of the Philly sports facilities. Public transportation is great (take the Phillies Express to the AT&T subway station), parking is fine, but if you plan to do anything else besides go to the game, forget about it. Outside of the Xfinity Live! establishment on the corner by the football and baseball stadiums, there’s nothing but concrete for miles.
Great parks have signature foods and restaurants–not only in the club level–that fans actually want to consume beyond standard hot dog & beer fare. Outside of maybe the Philly cheese steaks, this is not one of them. The food service on the club level is above average, but the general access food is typical. Overall, the layout and design of the park is easy to navigate and the size of the stadium makes for good sight lines and seats all around.
With respect to the team store, fans may be deceived by the relatively small storefront visible from the concourse. The store is very large and contains an extensive collections of kids and women’s clothing. As with the Padres, the Phillies offer some exclusive items you can only get at the park. Good call.
Dodger Stadium is iconic. Any baseball fan will love it.
Any non-fan? Not so sure. You may have heard it’s in a ravine. From a traffic standpoint, the vast majority of fans assume the only entrance is off the 110 via I-5 or the 101 (blue line on map). The reality is not that LA fans are fashionably late. They are all stuck in traffic about a mile from the stadium.
After sitting at a complete standstill for 15 minutes coming off the 101, I took off to explore an alternate route (the black line) away from the traffic jam. (“Yes, dear, it IS better to move no matter what than to stand still in traffic.”)
In short order I ended up parked–for free–on a nearby street where all the locals obviously go. Traffic was still piled up at the bottle-necked entrance as I walked past the $20 parking. All it would take would be a few traffic cops directing to the less traveled routes. Alternately, like the San Antonio Spurs and others have done, teams can place traffic directions on the website for newcomers. Better yet, email to new ticket buyers.
Now to the apparel and a few other things. Since I love Magic Johnson and the Dodgers I will just let the pictures speak for themselves.
The smaller team store, drab concrete floors and facades, and cramped serving areas are problems with any park built back in the Stone Age of stadiums (1950-70s). Food service areas, passageways, restrooms, and virtually anything that should provide amenities were designed as discomforts. That said, the lower levels have better food service, but fans aren’t allowed to go below their seated level.
Franchises can make some changes. The Dodgers could generate millions in new revenue by moving the press box out of its prime space directly behind home plate. Other parks (e.g., White Sox, Astros, etc.) moved press boxes and immediately sold out all of the new premium seats.
These are just snapshots of a few things baseball franchises (MiLB and MLB) should be monitoring. As part of Baylor’s Sports Sponsorship & Sales (S3) program, we go into these issues and many more. If interested in an in-depth treatment of sportscape management, you may want to read more at www.teamsportsmarketing.com. As information, this text contains frequent attempts at humor.
Look at these “kids” these days; all they do is tweet, text, and Facebook each other and don’t get out and do anything together. Some even sit in the same room texting each other.
Social media can help or hinder personal relationships. You might react to these “kids” like I do sometimes. Or, you might see social media as offering opportunities for new and extensive personal relationships, especially when relating to your customers.
Let’s look at a few ways social media can be used to keep or create a more personal level with your customers.
Low touch media = High touch service
Long gone are the days of dial up internet or even DSL internet (which we used to think was lightning speed).
Everything has to be faster. We need our information faster, our answers faster, everything faster. That makes social media the perfect medium.
Several months back I was having some issues with my cable/internet company (to remain nameless). While on the phone on hold, I tweeted something along the lines of “having issues, terrible service, #onhold, @companyx.”
Within seconds I had a tweet back from a company rep asking me to direct message them so I could give them my number and they could call me immediately.
I was just trying to let my frustration out (albeit it to my low number of twitter followers), but was immediately contacted and had the situation resolved because of the instantaneous nature of social media. What we might think of as impersonal and low touch, but the immediate service response times via social media communicates a higher level of personal attention: “They must really care about me.”
Social media gives the customer a greater sense of being “a part” of something. Especially in the sports industry, fans are very passionate about their teams and players. Fans join groups, like pages, follow certain players, teams, reports, and blogs. The list can go on and on.
Through those verticals, we can open up a community that helps bring people together and increases their connections with the team. Doing contests, tweet photos, text to win, tag yourself here, etc. are a great way to get fans to directly connect with the team. And it allows the team to show a personal connection back.
Tweeting contest winner’s names makes it personal, especially for that person who won. How cool is it to have your favorite team tweet or post your name or picture? And even those that didn’t win like it because they can see it and think, “Wow that’s cool, hope I win next time” or even “Wow, I know that person.”
Social media can also open up the transparency of a team. Give a behind the scenes look that people would not normally get to see. Social media allows for interaction through Google hangouts, or Twitter and Facebook Q&A’s with a player or coach that would not normally happen. Fans love just seeing pictures or comments posted by players that delve more into their personal lives.
So whether we want to brand social media as hindering or helping in personal connections, we can probably all agree that it is an effective way to bring community, stay connected, and increase personal connection with your fans.
Some of us can’t seem to put down our phones or be away from iPads, computers, or tablets. Our world might seem to be losing the in-person-to-person connection, but properly used, social media can increase our perceptions of personal connections.
Newcastle United fans have their say on club’s Twitter use
Newcastle United supporters – a passionate bunch.
Digital communications is now the front line of fan engagement for football clubs. The Premier League is a world wide brand and online means messages instantly disseminate around the globe.
Just look at the number of followers a typical Premier League side commands – many exceed average league attendance, with more supporters lurking elsewhere in the deep, dark bowels of the internet. Not surprisingly how clubs use social media to connect with stakeholders generates strong opinions from supporters.
Newcastle United began using Twitter a few years ago with currently around 200,000 followers, one of the largest numbers in the league. I asked supporters about the club’s use of the platform to find out whether they thought NUFC’s use of Twitter put them top of the table or that the club is in a basement battle.
What do fans (not) want?
Supporters were asked five simple questions – whether they followed the club, what they liked, what they disliked, what they wanted to see more of and what they wanted to see less of.
First off, of those fans who responded 25% didn’t officially ‘follow’ the official Twitter account. The main reason for this, mentioned by 61% of respondents, was the glut of marketing messages sent out by NUFC. It turns out that spammy and invasive tweeting will put off even the most ardent supporter.
This complaint was not simply restricted to those who have opted against following @NUFCOfficial. 84% of all respondents made reference to the use of the Twitter account as a vehicle for little more than adverts as one of their main dislikes of NUFC’s use of Twitter and it was a commented on frequently by those surveyed:
“Too many tweets about club shop offers”
“They just use it to sell stuff from the shop in the main. They never reply to genuine questions”
“The amount of tweets about selling items instead of news about the club”
“Getting spammed by offers of merchandise from the club shop. The club shop should get a separate account”
Oh dear. It’s pretty apparent that the club’s policy of using Twitter to drive traffic and increase sales isn’t well liked and probably isn’t working either.85% of fans said they wanted to see much less of it. But anyway, what about plus points?
To the surprise of no one, fans said they want to hear more about new signings.
When asked what they liked about the club’s Twitter almost 55% could muster an answer that wasn’t a variation on the word “nothing”. As you’d expect many of these responses focused on information that the club could publicise before anyone else, such as team line ups, signings and other breaking news:
“Team news on match day”
“Goal updates from matches are usually the quickest on Twitter”
So it turns out there are a few redeeming features of the club’s Twitter use. However that cannot escape from the fact that the feeling among many supporters is that if engagement is the name of then game then the club’s presence is not fit for purpose. When pushed on what they’d like to see from the account an increase in interaction was at the top of the pile:
“More interaction with supporters. Better use of social media tools in general to connect with fans”
“Interaction with supporters. Greater innovation in terms of how it is used too. Twitter can be used for great things but Newcastle have not embraced it.”
“More interaction with fans”
“Fan engagement. A teeny tiny bit of opinion now and then and the odd exclusive signing pictures rather than having to pay for NUFC TV”
A nice, round 40% of respondents made some mention of increased engagement with supporters in some form or another. There was also a clear interest in more exclusive, behind the scenes content similar toManchester City’s Inside City video series. Granted, that’s not strictly a comment on Twitter but more proof social media must be coordinated cross platform.
I’ll leave the final word to one respondent who was pretty damning in his assessment of Newcastle’s use of the platform…
What do teams in the United States have to learn from Italy’s AS Roma?
In Europe, AS Roma became the first football club to use Pinterest. AS Roma boards include:
Iconic photography from their history
A board with images of every player
Official club videos
Individual boards for merchandise (men’s clothing, women’s clothing, children’s clothing, hats, bags, homeware – all appealing to the “fashionista” community of Pinterest)
Every cover from their official club program
The AS Roma Pinterest board is a fine example for other clubs to follow – it clearly shows they understand the channel. They understand how to use the technology to curate fan content and really get the fans involved. Most importantly, Roma recognizes fans should be included in their official club presence. The team has boards specifically for fan photography, fan videos and even a selection of amazing AS Roma themed cakes. Let’s face it, you can’t avoid cakes on Pinterest!
Music has always been a huge part of sports broadcasts and events, including terrace chants and anthems particularly popular in football (soccer). In recent years the image of players equipped with headphones as part of their pre-game rituals has become standard. Why not let fans tap into what their favorite players are listening to?
The latest step AS Roma has taken is harnessing LinkedIn as a way of targeting fans with more business/professional orientated careers. Within the past few weeks, AS Roma announced the launch of their new AS Roma company page on LinkedIn with a specific strategy for the channel.
We have long thought teams should adopt LinkedIn as an official social media channel: By using a shared interest in football, it creates a casual and comfortable first point of contact in which relationships are already created. We all know businesses exploit this bond between fans–just look at the number of corporate hospitality suites and tickets sold every season. The fans use LinkedIn and they clearly want to connect with other supporters, particularly those who may share business interests.
AS Roma appears to use LinkedIn as a way to market corporate-relevant products: premium seats, corporate hospitality packages and even attracting new sponsors. Most of their content revolves around new sponsorship ventures, executive season ticket offers and current corporate partners.